Developing a Personal Style

Snapshot of Anawanitia’s artwork

The conundrum of developing your personal artistic style is that there is so much to learn. As you evolve, so does your art. Painting is a discipline; and as in other goals in your life, you have to put your all into it.  A good idea is to sequester yourself somewhere and create a least once per week. Ideally, you should be creating, drawing, painting at least 30 minutes per day. It is better to do art more frequently in shorter durations than once per week, such as 15 minutes to an hour per day than it is to spend 4 hours on Sunday. It becomes like walking, you don’t want to sit 6 days per week and then run on a Sunday. But regardless, you have to dedicate yourself within a schedule that works for you.

I’ve had teachers that told me that you should paint 100 small paintings within a month in order to develop your personal artistic style. While that is a brilliant idea, it doesn’t work for the humans who are just getting their feet wet. Developing your style should come after you had chosen your favorite medium and had experimented with different styles first. Do not try to write a novel before you have learned the alphabet, otherwise you are just going to give up. It is like watching a kid trying to play Eddie Van Halen’s guitar in Hot for Teacher before learning how to hold the guitar pick, they all give up in about 2 maybe 3 days. Don’t be that kid. Learn how to hold the crayon before coloring the page!

I do not claim to know everything about art or painting. But I know you can tell the difference between my commissioned paintings as opposed to my self-guided personal paintings. There is a certain rhythm that flows, creative juices if you will, that comes when one is perfectly content while painting. It feels very much like a meditation. At the end of the meditation, you feel either fully rested or extremely exhausted. Either or, you should feel happy,  content and satisfied. That is when you know you have found what you are looking for. Follow that rhythm and you will have great paintings. 

Once you are comfortable with the artistic process, then do the 100 paintings. These paintings are 8×10 inches or smaller in size. You can get canvas panels at Dick Blick for about a buck each (unfortunately, Blick had eaten up the other art stores such as Utrecht which had great panels for low cost). If you play with any other media except oil paint, you can paint directly into a sketchbook, or on watercolor paper.

The game is to do about three to four per day in order to make your 100 paintings within 30 days. To me, this is unrealistic in today’s society. Sure, it is fine for the retired teachers who preach this practice, but not for people who have to hold a job!

My recommendation is to do one really good painting every day or so.  If you cannot do one painting per day, or every other day, commit to one per week. That way, at the end of the year, you’ll have at least 52 paintings! If you cannot muster that, carry a small journal and sketch during your breaks.

I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping an art journal. Keeping an art journal makes the greatest art book you can buy because it is your learning process and notes of what works for you and what does not. Keep a sketch journal of what you like about an art piece, how you mixed your paint, which colors you used, etc. If you paint with oil paint, use watercolors or acrylics in your journal that have the same colors.

The paintings you make in your journal can become the foundation of your masterpieces. Buy a decent journal that you will actually use. If you purchase a journal that is too pricy and pretty, you will feel the need to preserve it until you are better at painting, but if you purchase a journal that is too cheap, the journal will fall apart and you will not want to open it for future references.

Remember, creativity is a muscle that gets stronger with each use. You are not going to run out of subjects or ideas. Go for a walk and look around at foliage and flowers. Look at the snail close up, pick up a rock. (Don’t squish the snail!) Open a book. You’ll find something to paint, I promise you.